Rough Week Pasta Salad

Amounts/measurements updated 26 Dec 2013

Some weeks I need to put together a fast, healthy dish that’s going to give me a bunch of leftovers and still taste delicious in a couple of days.  (Actually, a lot of weeks are like that.)  I’ve been trying to figure something out for months; some kind of pasta salad emerged early on as a good idea, but it took a long time to discover what holds up in the fridge.  This guy does, and it’s packing all of your protein and iron, too.

  • 1 box pasta
  • 1 cup green lentils (dry)
  • 1/2 to 1 lb. of carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 stalk (about 5-8 ribs) celery, chopped
  • 2 bunches of green onions, chopped
  • 2-3 serrano chili peppers, minced
  • 2 crowns broccoli, chopped (I quarter and chop the stems, too)
  • 1 or 2 containers of hummus
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • roasted sunflower seeds to taste
  • salt or seasoned salt (like Cavender’s) to taste
  • olive oil to taste

In a soup pot, boil the lentils in 6 cups of water for 15 minutes, then add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente and liquid is almost entirely absorbed.  Let the lentil and pasta mix cool for 10 minutes or so, then toss in a large (read; gigantic) bowl, dress, and serve, garnished with the sunflower seeds.

You could make it fancy with good olives, capers, chili sauce… use your imagination.  Anything that works with hummus should work here.

Pumpkin Bar Variation

Do you love my banana bars yet?  They’ve been my basic weekday breakfast for a couple of years now, and I still look forward to them.

This fall, though, in all of the ridiculous pumpkin-spice frenzy, I had the thought “The consistency of canned pumpkin is a lot like mashed bananas…” and this happened:

  • 3 cans of pumpkin puree (like you’d use for pie)
  • 6 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 to 1 C water, depending on how moist you like your bars (I use 3/4 C)
  • 1 C white sugar
  • Up to 2 C of whatever nuts, seeds, candy chips, or dried fruit (I use 8 oz. roasted almonds)
  • Honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice to taste
  • A pinch of salt

Combine ingredients, spoon onto a baking sheet in bar, scone, or cookie shapes (I make about 12-15 bars), and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

They’re a nice change of pace this time of year.

The next frontier?  I’m thinking applesauce.

Breakfast Bars That Will Change Your Life

Update 2013 March 2: From 8-9 bananas to 10, from 7 cups oats to 6. I’ve been making these for almost a year, and still love them. Originally posted 2012 June 10.

  • 10 medium-to-large bananas, peeled & mashed with the back of a fork in a big bowl (if your bananas are smallish at all, adjust the number of bananas upward accordingly & to taste)
  • 6 cups of rolled oats (i.e. Quaker’s old fashioned)
  • 2 cups of your favorite dried fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate or other chips, etc. (I use roasted almonds)
  • Optional: any spices, honey, etc. that you like (I use a splash of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey)

That’s it!  Add the oats, extras, and spices to your bananas, and mix well.  The mass should stick together pretty well.  Spread it out on a cookie sheet – parchment paper optional – don’t press it down to much, just spoon it out over the whole sheet and shape it together (I also pre-cut it into 16 bars with a spatula, 2×8) – and bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes, until the top is browning a little.  Let it cool, then cut (if you didn’t already) or break the bars apart.

Hat tip to Katherine Eats Real Food.  When I changed jobs, I found that my new grocery store doesn’t carry my typical breakfast foods, so I took the opportunity to get into the habit of making these bars.  They’re delicious and super-healthy!

Just in time for Thursday

Updated 2013 Nov 27

Here’s a veg main course dish that I put together today, based on something we had at Sweet Tomatoes this week and some other recipes I looked at, but with my own twists. It’s sweet with a lot of heft, starring sweet potatoes and Granny Smith apples, and can easily be a veggie main course for a holiday dinner. -h

  • 3-4 med. sweet potatoes
  • 1 lg. yellow onion
  • 2-3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 head garlic (break it apart and dry roast it in a pan with skin on until partially blackened, then remove skin & chop) (or just peel, smash, and sautee it with the onion)
  • 1 box (mine is 13.25 oz.) whole wheat pasta
  • 4 cups apple juice or veg broth (can include a few tablespoons of maple syrup if you like)
  • 12 oz. raisins (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 2-3 T butter
  • Crushed red pepper (or black pepper) to taste
  • Slivered or chopped roasted almonds
  • Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish


  1. Chop sweet potatoes, onion, and apples into 1/4″ pieces.  Be careful cutting raw sweet potatoes; you’ll need a good knife and good, safe knife technique.  You could pre-cook them in the microwave for a couple minutes to soften them up, if you prefer
  2. In a large pan, sautee the onion in olive oil and butter with a little salt over medium-high heat (about 10 minutes) until the onion has browned a bit
  3. Add the sweet potato, cook for another 10 minutes or so
  4. Add apples, cook for 5 minutes or so
  5. Add pasta, raisins, apple juice/veg broth/maple syrup, and crushed red or black pepper; reduce liquid
  6. When pasta is al dente and liquid is reduced to a sauce that coats the pasta and doesn’t pool, remove from heat and serve, garnished with crushed roasted almonds (and cheese, if you choose)

Beer pairing: Boulevard Sixth Glass barleywine

Communion Soup

Even though I substitute black beans for the original recipe’s “lean beef stew meat (1 lb.)” in this soup, I keep the name because it’s part of this soup’s story. Communion soup comes from the ladies at the Goehner, NE United Church of Christ (1), where the Ghana Partnership Committee I’ve been a part of has met, and it’s how they use up the leftover communion wine. Smart. And delicious.

As with any soup, you can vary the ratios to taste.

[] 2 T extra virgin olive oil
[] 2 medium or large red onions, chopped
[] 8 cloves fresh or 1 T jarred minced garlic
[] veg broth (I use water as-needed and 2 cubes)
[] 2 cans corn
[] 2-3 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
[] 1 pkg. (12 oz.) white mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
[] 1 jar (15 1/2 oz.) spaghetti sauce
[] 1 cup red wine (or a little more… one for me, one for the soup)
[] salt to taste (or seasoned salt, such as Krazy Jane’s) (1 tsp.)
[] black pepper to taste (1 tsp.)
[] sugar to taste (1 tsp.)
[] soy sauce to taste (2 T)
[] fresh or dried parsley to taste (1 tsp. fresh, 1/2 tsp. dried)
[] nutmeg to taste (1/4 tsp.)
[] oregano to taste (1/2 tsp.)

Heat 2 T extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of your BAP (2) over medium heat. Add the onion; sautee. (I like to leave a little crunch in them.) When the onion is almost done, clear a hot spot in the bottom of the pan by pushing the onion to the edge, and add the garlic; sautee for a minute
or two, until fragrant.

Add corn, beans, spaghetti sauce, wine, veg broth (as much liquid as you like, when the other ingredients are in) and spices (everything but the mushrooms) (3). Heat through and simmer for at least 10 minutes; when you’re almost ready to eat, add mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes; serve. This soup is great to pair with bread & cheese.

(1) Who got it from Joan Moss at Rowan Church, who got it from the Iowa State Fair, where Betty Dreyer of Indianola won first place in a slow cooker contest with it as “Beef & Corn Soup.”

(2) Big Ass Pot.

(3) Careful adding the first liquid to the hot pot. If you’re worried, you can turn of the heat for a bit before adding those ingredients.

St. Paul Tacos

A couple weeks ago at dinner, Cari Ann said something about “Wouldn’t it be awesome to have tacos with Dorothy Lynch on them?” ( ) It would, so we set about inventing a recipe to support the concept.

Shell: Soft corn tortillas

Filling: Broiled red pepper, mushroom, and corn. We cut two fresh red peppers into thin strips, sliced one package of baby bella mushrooms, put those two in a pan, and spread frozen corn over them. Season with crushed red pepper and Mexican oregano, broil on a high (2nd from highest???) rack until the corn starts to brown a bit.

Crunch: Cashew pieces and a bit of romaine lettuce

Sauce: Dorothy Lynch

Cheese: Queso fresco (or feta if you can’t find it, but the mild queso fresco is *really* delicious!)

Of course, sides of chips and salsa or guac, well-fried black beans, or garlic white rice would go well with these tacos. Enjoy! -h

h’s Hummus

  • 3 cans of chick peas (2 drained)
  • tahini to taste (2 T or so)
  • olive oil to taste (3 T or so)
  • juice of 1 lemon (also some zest, if you like)
  • 1 head dry roasted garlic (or to taste)
  • chili pepper to taste (I like 3 dry roasted serranos, or 2 dry roasted and 1 fresh, or else jalapenos, Tabasco, cayenne, hot relish…  use your imagination)
  • salt or seasoning to taste (like Cavender’s All-purpose Greek or Krazy Jane’s Mixed-Up Salt

Blend all ingredients except the two cans of drained chick peas, until smooth.  Then add the remaining chick peas and blend again, stirring carefully as needed or between blendings until your desired texture is reached.  If it’s thick, you can add a bit of olive oil or just warm water.

Adding a generous amount of curry powder – I eyeball it, but maybe 1/4 C, or possibly even more – takes this hummus is a new direction.  Two red bell peppers roasted on a grill or open flame, or under a broiler, are great, too.

Updated 18 April 2014

Essential Beans & Rice

This is an absolute staple in my house; quick, tasty, substantial, and open to endless variations.

  • 1 box Spanish rice (I use HyVee’s, thanks Jill!)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
  1. Make the rice according to the stovetop instructions on the box.
  2. You can add fresh chopped bell pepper and/or chopped onion when you add the water and tomatoes. Or crushed garlic, if you like garlic.
  3. When all the liquid has cooked off, turn the heat off and add the beans. You can also add drained canned or cooked frozen or fresh corn at this point. You could even add chopped fresh mushrooms.
  4. Season with cumin, hot sauce, maybe a bit of lime juice. It doesn’t really need extra salt (there’s enough in the rice’s seasoning packet and the canned tomatoes). I also strongly recommend using a hot pepper flavor (like hot sauce, cayenne, or crushed red pepper) and not using black pepper.

Ultimate Oven Fries

Hey, while you’ve been lying on the couch watching Keanu in “The Replacements,” I’ve been perfecting the ever-elusive Oven Fry for you.  So gear up, geniuses, these fries will melt your face.

  1. Scrub your potatoes / sweet potatoes.  Fork a bunch of holes in the skin so they don’t explode.
  2. PRE-COOK THEM – not *all the way* done – IN THE MICROWAVE.  I recommend 2.5 or 3 minutes per medium-sized Russet potato, or 3-3.5 per sweet potato.  You want them just starting to get soft, but not done or totally soft or falling apart.
  3. Cut yr potatoes into wedges.  (Be careful, they’re hot!)
  4. Pour some olive oil into the bottom of a bowl.  Cover each wedge in oil by dipping it into the bowl.  Place covered wedges on a baking sheet.
  5. Put the sheet on a pretty high oven rack (maybe not the highest, though) under the broiler on HIGH/HI for about 15 minutes, or until they’re browned and crispy-looking on the outside.
  6. Take the fries out, let them cool, salt and season them, and enjoy!

Saving the salt for last is a good idea.

The microwave pre-cooking is the secret.  You’ll get better fries, faster, every time.  Which will get you back watching Reeves acting like a dumb quarterback appropriately, for once.

(Thanks, Jill!)

Ultimate Smoothies

  • 2 bananas. (They can be pretty ripe!)
  • A pour of milk. I eyeball it; 1 cups or so? Probably.
  • A squeeze of honey. 2 T. About.
  • A shot of vanilla! 1 T. Or thereabouts.
  • 1/2 lb. frozen fruit (such as mixed berries, strawberries or mango)
  • A little cinnamon, ginger, or pumpkin pie spice can add a twist

Put everything  in a blender, and blend on “pulse.”  Perfect.

I have this Ultimate Smoothie recipe as a meal, or it could be a cool snack for two people.

It took me a while to get the texture right, but with practice they’re stellar every time and you don’t even need to measure!